Want to know which business leader is reading Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? and who's reading The Iliad? See Part I. Let's see what some other leaders in business, CSR, and nonprofits have been reading this summer.
Dominique Conseil, President, Aveda: "This summer I decided to re-read a few of my favorites, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, by Peter M. Senge, and Lessons From Private Equity Any Company Can Use, by Orit Gadiesh and Hugh MacArthur. Retrospectively, I think I subconsciously chose these simultaneously because they are diametrically opposed in their approach to business and how to achieve results. In The Fifth Discipline, Senge teaches about focusing on the systems thinking approach, which aims to build organizations based on the idea of a group of learners; a philosophy I believe is paramount to organizational success at Aveda in our pursuit of corporate social responsibility."
Richard R. Buery, Jr., President & Chief Executive Officer, The Children's Aid Society:"The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, by Peter Lencioni. This story about a fictional Silicon Alley company with a new CEO is—above all—a great read. His story makes insightful points both about the central importance of developing effective teams in the workplace as well as the dysfunctions that make it so difficult for managers to do so.
"For fun, I am in a science fiction mood right now. Three novels I recently completed are Kraken and Un Lun Dun by China Mieville and Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik. Kraken, like much of Mievelle's work, is difficult to describe—it begins when a preserved giant squid disappears from a London Museum. That's the most straightforward thing that happens in this exquisite novel. Un Lun Dun follows a young heroine who finds herself in an alternative version of London where she must save the world from sentient pollution. It's like a cross between Alice in Wonderland and An Inconvenient Truth. Tongues of Serpents is the latest volume in the Temeraire series, which imagines the Napoleonic Wars fought with an Air Corps of domesticated dragons. It will definitely take your mind off of the Great Recession."
Jonathan Korngold, Managing Director, General Atlantic; Board Member, 92nd Street Y, Central Park Conservancy, KIDS, and the Harvard Business School Club of NYC: "Lone Survivor: The Eye Witness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, by Marcus Luttrell. A very interesting read into the life of a Navy SEAL and his firsthand account of a valiant stand he and 3 colleagues made under ambush by 200 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Very exciting and gave me a newfound respect and appreciation for the brave men and women on the front lines for our country."
Michelle Rhee, Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools: "A Hope in the Unseen, by Ron Suskind: This book drives home the real stakes in public education reform. It's about a young man who attends Brown University after graduating from one of DC's most struggling high schools. He faces so many unnecessary challenges that his peers from successful schools don't have to face. For me his story reiterated why I took this job, why public education reform is critical to providing solid choices in our children's futures and meeting the challenges we face as a nation."
Joan Youngman, Chair, Department of Valuation and Taxation, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy: "K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain, by Ed Viesturs and David Roberts. Epic mountaineering feats and defeats beyond the imagining of most non-climbers, together with a "Rashomon"-like comparison of attempts to determine what happened on past climbs gone wrong.
"David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. The literary equivalent of the 'slow food' movement. Immersion in another time and place, with surprising immediacy in shrewdly drawn characters and scenes that can be hugely dramatic or comic—or sometimes both—but always amazingly inventive.
"The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The celebrated financial writer intersperses this discussion of the role of randomness with sartorial advice, philosophic reflections, and a description of his 'stochastic workouts.'"
Basheerhamad Shadrach, Ph.D., Executive Director, Telecentre.org Foundation: "Superpower? By Raghav Bahl. The book portrays India as nation that is behind China by at least ten years, and I want to know why. The remarkable growth of China is something the world is mystified about, and as an Indian, I am mystified all the more for that nation was ten years behind India just under two decades ago!"
Aron Cramer, President and CEO, BSR: "I read two books that touch on sustainability: Solar, by Ian McEwan's, and In Office Hours, by Lucy Kellaway's. I am also reading Exiles in the Garden, by Ward Just. And I am finalizing my own book, Sustainable Excellence, which will be out on October 12." (See more from Cramer on his two books here.)
My own favorites from the summer: Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. How can a story about a young woman asylum seeker from Nigeria be enchanting, at the same time not sparing the reader from vivid images of terror and captivity. The exquisitely written tale will stay with me along with simple, charming phrases that capture bitter ironies. Little Bee brings to life the meaningful work of people and NGOs that assist asylum seekers and victims of sex trafficking. It inspires readers to find their place in making a difference.
The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Highly entertaining. Reminder not to fall for anecdotes, but rather to ask for the data. And then to remember that data can fool you too! After an exhilarating, roller-coaster, hyperactive read, it seems to boil down to: bad things happen, appreciate what you have, and don't sweat the little things.
The Promised Land, by Nicholas Lemann. I'm in the midst of this story of the migration of 5 million African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North between 1940 and 1970. I am fascinated by the social impact of a technological innovation: the story begins with the invention of the mechanical cotton picker in 1944, that ultimately displaced black sharecroppers and drove a mass migration to the urban North for unskilled work in factories, laundries, restaurants, hotels, and stockyards.
Please share your favorite books from the summer in the Comments section below.
See more of Michelle Rhee at Innovation Uncensored 2011.